Upgrading to Vista? Dell wants to hear from you.
Starting March 25, Dell is offering a new service designed for large enterprises that are considering upgrading or migrating to a new desktop operating system.
While Dell's Client Migration Solution is designed to offer services, consulting and other tools for any sort of OS upgrade, it's being marketed for businesses that might take the plunge and upgrade to Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system following the release of SP1.
The new service is specifically designed for businesses with 2,500 or more PCs and for IT departments that need upfront assistance for planning a company-wide migration or to ensure that user images and applications work with Vista or another operating system, said Kevin Hanes, senior manager with the PC vendor.
"We had been focusing almost exclusively on deployment and on-site installment of hardware," Hanes said. "Our customers had been asking for more help and were asking us for more in the way of upfront planning and design. We wanted to develop a better way to migrate and develop a standard set of solutions and different upfront pieces for our customers."
The most common concerns among customers about a Vista upgrade, Hanes said, are ensuring that all the existing applications work with the new OS, that the user images remain stable during the installation, that those images work with the new security features found in Vista and upfront planning to make sure there are no cost overruns during the migration.
To help bring more automation and simplicity to a Vista migration, Hanes said Dell has also developed some new technologies, such as Automated Deployment, to help speed up the process. Other services include application and image management and additional training for employees.
While Dell is offering the service at a time when businesses are still hesitant to upgrade to Vista, the company is also moving away from its old reputation as a low-cost provider of hardware to a more robust IT provider that can compete with the types of services offered by rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard.
While the company will not share the specific dollar number of its investment in services and the money spent on research and development, a list of recent acquisitions - including Silverback, ASAP and EverDream - show that Dell sees a future in providing more services to enterprises.
"Dell has been obviously growing out its services business in the last year or so and that was one of the central tenets after [Michael] Dell's return to the company," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research.
In addition to helping its own business, King said Dell is trying to take advantage of the concerns that some companies still have about Vista and whether it's worth the cost of the upgrade or it's better to stay with XP until a later date. King said that even with the release of SP1, most enterprises will only begin to start an upgrade in late 2008 or 2009, and that a company-wide switch to Vista could take several more months.
"Most people have taken a much more measured view [of Vista] and many of the businesses out there were waiting for SP1, but I think that for many of the companies that are dedicated Windows houses, it's now more a matter of when than if," he said.
Since Vista also requires a series of hardware upgrades, Dell might also use its fledgling services unit to sell more PCs and boost that side of its business. In terms or worldwide PC shipments, Dell still trails HP, but a Forrester Research report found that Dell remains the dominant provider in the enterprise market.
As a company, Dell has had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with Vista. After enthusiastically supporting the OS at the launch, the company eventually announced it would give customers a choice of Vista or XP, as well as the option for Ubuntu Linux.
The company has been offering the new service in a pilot program for about six months. While there are no set pricing schedules, Hanes estimated that a 5,000-seat business could cost an enterprise up to $200 per PC.